Abrek Zelimkhan Gushmazukayev
After the February Revolution in Russia in 1905 the Tsarist police attempted to nip revolutionary activities in the bud with cruel repression, and the effects were felt in Chechnya, too. On 10 October 1905 the police shot into the crowd during a strike at the industrial plant in Grozny, killing 17 people. A week later Abreke Zelimkhan held up a passenger train near Kadi-Yurt Station and had the same number of men shot.
Zelimkhan Guzhmazukayev was born in Khara-choy near Vedeno in 1872. After a dispute involving his brother’s bride led to the death of a man in his family, Zelimkhan was required by the code of clan revenge to kill a man from the other family. Although peace was restored between the two families and there was no evidence of any crime, Zelimkhan, his father and his two brothers were sentenced by the Russian administration. Zelimkhan escaped from prison. One brother died in custody. The other returned from banishment only to be sentenced unjustly yet again, and fled to the mountains. Other relatives and villagers were banished without legal justification. In 1906 Zelimkhan killed Lieutenant-Colonel Dobrovolski, the district official in Vedeno who was responsible for these decisions, followed in 1908 by Colonel Galaev, who had banished over 500 innocent Chechens to the Russian North.
As he was unable to live a life in peace, Zelimkhan became an abreke (lone resistance fighter), wreaking vengeance Robin Hood style on the arrogant Russian governors.
On 1909 the Tsarist powers placed a reward of 5,000 roubles on his head. But all efforts to capture him were in vain. Zelimkhan attacked Grozny Station in January 1910 and made off with 18,000 roubles. In response to the pogrom in Gudermes he warned the Cossack ataman (leader) Ferbizki that he would raid the bank in Kizlyar at 12 noon on 9 April. He 27 attacked punctually and all Chechnya mocked the Tsar’s police for their failure to stop him. Zelimkhan distributed the proceeds among the poor and needy.
In September 1910 Prince Andronnikov, the highest-ranking official in the Nazran region, set off with a strong division on a penal expedition to catch Zelimkhan. He lured the troops into am ambush by a bridge and personally took the lives of Prince Andronnikov and First Lieutenant Afanasyev, wounding the Dagestani Staff Captain Dayaghev.
Zelimkhan was a legend in his own lifetime, and occasionally others sought to jump on the bandwagon. One of these fake Zelimkhans is said to have taken a bull from a farmer by claiming “I am Zelimkhan!”. By chance the real Zelimkhan came along, brought the bull back and handed it over to the farmer together with an ear, saying: “The man who took your bull is one-eared Zelimkhan. I am the true Zelimkhan for I have, as you see, two ears.”
On a number of occasions Zelimkhan slipped through troops laying siege. Badly wounded by a shot in the back from a traitor, he hid in a house in Shali, but it was surrounded on 27 September 1913 and after a long struggle he was killed. His capturers proudly had their photograph taken with him. The inhabitants of Grozny and Vedeno were forced to pay 100,000 roubles in reparation for the damage caused by Zelimkhan and his companions.